June 17, 2024

Music Plugng Melodic Hub

Beats Of Music

Global Beat: Los Bitchos

4 min read

photo credit: Tom Mitchell

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Los Bitchos are throwing a party, and everyone is invited. The London-based global-funk foursome named their debut album Let the Festivities Begin!, and, when the group jumps on a Zoom call in late January, it’s immediately clear that they take their celebrations seriously.

“I’m still clinging on to my 20s right now, but at the end of March, we’re not gigging on my birthday weekend, and we’re going to have a huge party,” bassist Josefine Jonsson says. “You can print that. Come on down to London! Bring everyone you know!”

The sound captured on Let the Festivities Begin! backs up the band members’ enthusiasm. Each musician hails from a different country, yet Los Bitchos melt their musical influences down and mix them together, creating something wholly new—and deliriously fun. Guitarist Serra Petale was born in Australia to a Turkish mother; keytar player Agustina Ruiz is Uruguayan and Jonsson is Swedish. Drummer Nic Crawshaw is the sole London native in the crew. Together, they swirl heavy-grooving South American chica and cumbia music, electrifying Turkish psych, driving rock and surf guitars into 11 tracks of pure party.

The band originally coalesced after the members of the outfit started bumping into each other at various shows and parties. (Most of them have ties to the area’s garage rock and punk scenes). Petale first met Ruiz outside a house party after falling into a pond.

“It didn’t look like a body of water, I swear,” Petale says with a laugh. “But I showed up totally wet, which was embarrassing, and she was really kind and sat with me by a bonfire to dry off. She didn’t play an instrument— her musical résumé was yelling and being deranged in a punk band. But she was so lovely and sassy so, obviously, I said we’d teach her keytar.”

By early 2019, the quartet was etching out devilishly fun grooves inspired by decades-old LPs by Peruvian, Argentinian and Turkish stars. After years of struggling as a scribe and songwriter, Petale, the band’s de facto leader, figured out how to match her riffs with words.

“I’m not a conventional singer-songwriter,” she says. “I wish I bloody was. But it never worked for me. I’d try to write lyrics and feel like a moron. But with this project, I found the excitement of production, of trying new instruments, of the groove of a bassline. Oh, god help me, I love a good bassline!”

The songs that emerged were built on the foundation of grooves—each player adding her signature style to create pulsing, riff-based tunes that were all vibe. And then they met Alex Kapranos.

The Franz Ferdinand frontman caught a Los Bitchos gig in 2019 and made his way backstage for an introduction. Before long, he may as well have been the fifth Bitch— helping the band tighten their grooves into a selection of punchy songs and picking the perfect effects pedals and recording methods to truly capture the “Los Bitchos feel” on tunes with names like “Good to Go!” and “Tripping at a Party.”

The band spent hours at a time rehearsing at Kapranos’ house, joyously experimenting with sounds before they hit London’s Gallery Studios—the space owned by Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera—in January 2020, with their rock-star mentor in the producer’s chair.

“He didn’t take a backseat, hit record, write a few notes and whisper to the producer. He cared as much as me and the girls do,” Petale says. “We did loads of prep before the studio—it’s not 1974 anymore, where you can be in the studio for six months. Our time was finite. When we got there, we were ready.”

Los Bitchos wanted to lay down a set of sounds that felt timeless—music that was not tied to any one culture or tradition. Early on, they decided to hang their microphones higher than usual in order to translate their live energy into the studio and craft the perfect soundtrack for their dream house party. Petale leaned hard on her chorus pedal—giving her guitar a cosmic, twinkling effect. And Jonsson realized that, when it comes to the bass, less is often more.

“I wanted to create that perfect groove,” she says. “You can play one single note and it can be groovy as hell—so much more than trying to impress people technically.”

Los Bitchos’ short blast in the studio gave them the fire they needed to capture the magic of the songs they’d been perfecting for months.

“When something feels right, that’s your best instinct. You can analyze music until the cows come home, but that initial feeling: That’s what connects with people,” says Petale.

That was January 2020—a few months before the world stood still. The album’s release and the band’s promotion cycle both got derailed by COVID-19. But the same spontaneous energy that sparked their studio session carried them along. The band launched an online radio show, Planet Bitchos, where they could connect with fans and spin tunes from around the globe. A perfectly timed video recorded by Seattle’s KEXP dropped in mid-2020—and racked up nearly 2 million views.

Los Bitchos kept their fans engaged thanks to a trilogy of wonderfully absurd music videos, spinning the band into vigilantes put on trial and then thrown into a witness protection program. (Kapranos even appeared as a game show host.)

And now, more than two years after they hit the studio, the real festivities are finally beginning. Los Bitchos will be on the road for much of 2022, and the shows will be—naturally—a party. Their excitement has been bottled, and it’s ready to blow.

“Playing the record live when the record is actually out? Amazing. And on a big headlining tour where people will be there to see…us?” Petale says. “That’s great!”


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